Being a Parent Hurts Sometimes

While my roast beef, Swiss and horsey sauce sandwich browns in the toaster oven, the timer’s steady ticking provides the background music to my somber thoughts.

(I fully intended that to be over-dramatic.)

I realized today that my parents probably didn’t enjoy disappointing me. They really did have my best interests at heart when they said no. They did not enjoy seeing me cry about it. No, this is not the first time I have realized this fact, but it is the first time I have really understood it from their end.

My son is evolving before my eyes and I have noticed a subtle shift in his behavior. No longer just an infant, he’s displaying wants as well as needs. For example, he was eating my mother-in-law’s hair the other day… had a huge clump of it in his mouth. When we took it out of his mouth he tried to grab it again. When she pulled her hair back where he couldn’t reach it, he screamed in protest. He threw a fit because we wouldn’t let him chew on grandma’s hair. Babies need to eat. Babies need to sleep. Babies need their diapers changed. I’m sorry, but babies do not need to suck on hair as opposed to their pacifiers, which clipped on their shirts, are more than available for all their sucking and chewing needs.

This was the context in which I decided it was time to begin sleep training my son.

(Oh my gosh, this horsey sauce is burning a hole through my nose and opening up the floodgates behind my tear ducts!)

The same changes in his little brain that allow him to prefer hair to a pacifier and pitch a fit about it, also allow him to choose to stay awake when he needs to sleep. Over the past few weeks, he has repeatedly made this choice, and he has gotten more and more tired to the point of screaming for no reason. It has become a battle of wills. Parents versus Baby. Play versus Sleep.

Last night I finally gave in to the nagging voice that kept tell me to “be the parent and make him go to bed when he needs to, not when he wants to.” I was fully prepared to hear his cries for hours. Except… he only cried for 15 minutes, maybe 20. Tonight he only cried for 18 minutes exactly. He slept. And slept. And slept. If’s he’s sleeping, he must really need to sleep, which means he hasn’t been getting the sleep he needs for several weeks now. No wonder he had such a short little temper – he was always tired like me. Now I’m slapping myself for not recognizing this sooner.

I still don’t like hearing him cry, and he protests for a lot longer during the day when I try to get him down for a nap. I think he’s just not used to sleeping in his crib during the day and that is what needs to change. I want him to associate his crib with sleeping to the point that just looking at his bed makes him think, “Hmm, I’m kind of tired, I think I’ll take a nap.”

We’ll see about that….


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